all know the same truths and our lives consist of how we choose to
Allen, Woody Allen: A Documentary
is a cure for nothing.
DuBois, “Letter to a Negro Schoolgirl
most concerned citizens, I followed the Chicago Teachers Union fight
the liberal Democratic Machine in Chicago and the market capitalists.
raised in Chicago, I am a product of both the private and public
there, having graduated from a Catholic elementary school, and after
two dismal years at a Catholic, all girl-finishing school, graduated
public high school. I received my undergraduate degree from a four-year
institution but my master’s degree from a public institution, and
doctorate at a private institution.
It will take hard work to untangle ourselves from the Empire’s web of innocence.
been a college teacher for 25 years, I know the plight of teachers, and
had my experiences with unions…
Chicago Teachers Union strike was a victory for the students, the
teachers - and the union. The union and supporters claim a labor
will take their word for it. It was a victory for labor. Against the
privatize education and enslave teachers, this is a victory.
I am all for labor union victories. Historically, and certainly in my
experience, unions mirror the hierarchical structure of the State and,
keep the profitable peace with the State, sell a large portion of its
membership down the river. No, education is my concern. I have these
ideas and pose a different set of questions. What is this thing called
today? What are students learning? What is the content of this thing
education? Specifically, what ideas are disseminated and regurgitated?
the battles in education about reform or revolution?
me step back and tell this little story. It is an old story, one the
articulated in the 1930s. It is about a 14-year-old girl, Rosa
one day has a glimpse of the idea she had only been told by parents,
and community. Spying through the wisteria vines of a nearby
observes a lovely scene: a young couple seems to be embracing each
idea, romantic and chivalric, is something she vows to serenade and
few years go by, and Coldfield is a young woman now. The smoke settles,
cannons cease to blast, and the last soldier hangs up his uniform and
his bayonet. But Coldfield hears the echo of a shot from the plantation
with wisteria. She tells us how she ran, running full tilt to the house
the flight of stairs where is comes to a halt before a figure, a
Sutpen - but not him, not the slaveholder and owner of the plantation,
Thomas Sutpen but her - a daughter!
Coldfield knows what lies beyond the door behind this “daughter.” In
lies the murdered “son,” and it will be the same room, years later, in
the idea itself lies, a murderer, returned to yellow and decay, no
chivalric or heroic.
will be lost if she enters this door now where the murdered lies, but
remember. She, of a privileged race and class and as poet laureate, can
remember the idea as she perceived it, as innocence, as the location in
occupants such as her see themselves as free.
runs back down the stairs, vowing now to contain the contamination. The
remains, fortified, institutionalized, charged with eradicating any
suspect this little story has relevance today. It re-creates the
American culture: the door no one wants to enter, the idea that seems
decaying at every turn only to be revived again and again, even if the
of the idea was shaky, except that it was imaginative - but nonetheless
on ignorance of reality.
While those at the bottom worry about survival and remain silent, those at the top of this order look away - but never down.
little tale itself is hidden, as they say, in plain sight at most
private libraries and educational institutions, among countless other
similar in kind. The book in which this narrative is contained is
metaphorically, a door few enter. This is the catastrophe we face not
we try to tackle the problem of education but any social problem,
housing, poverty. Here is a battleground we in this nation run from
invent (as a humanitarian effort, of course) stories about freedom and
democracy that are not substantiated by reality.
challenge these stories with their ideas is to subject oneself to the
and bayonets of those in the 1% and 99%, regardless of gender or
need books, starting on the first day of classes. Music, art, and
skills should never have been reduced or eliminated from the
teaching staffs should be diversified. Learning is not constant
teachers should not be evaluated based on test scores. The pressure
administration is more than “bullying” (see “Chicago Teachers Union
It is a form of torture meant to extract from the mind any thought of
resistance: You live or die! Your choice! Do as we tell you!
raise in salary for teachers is also a plus considering compensation
other professional employment allows a good chunk of its workers to
above the poverty line. Most important, a teacher’s work is never over
the bell rings or the hours in a building are over. Teachers are
learners, too. To some extent, it is a way of being: teaching/learning,
there may be cause for celebrating the unity of union members, I see
regarding the books, testing, diversity of teachers, even the raises.
books? Who will decide? What is the perspective of those in power to
only the books but the content of what is to be learned?
Arizona and in other
locations throughout the U.S., certain
books and certain subjects, particularly certain painful subjects some
like to leave behind that door, have been removed from the classroom.
remains is another story with a set of ideas more in keeping with the
the bourgeoisie and capitalist classes - fearful of resistance to the
me point out something else that older people fail to remember and
people have never been taught to understand. I will use a passage from
S. Wolin’s Democracy
Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted
significance of the African American prison population is political.
notable about the African American population generally is that it is
sophisticated politically and by far the one group that throughout the
twentieth century kept alive a spirit of resistance and rebelliousness.
contest, criminal justice is as much a strategy of political
it is a channel of instinctive racism.
word - that “neutralization”...
Imagine you are a young Latino in a classroom in the U.S. and the lesson you hear claims that Columbus discovered the Americas.Wolin
argues that under what he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” the kind
culture here in the U.S. seems to be adopting as opposed to
is, Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany, “economics dominates
politics - and
with that domination come different forms of ruthlessness…such as
appropriated money” or “waiving minimum wage standards.” State power is
reduced but actually increases thanks to these kinds of strategies that
major role in the incorporation of state and corporate power.”
do not want to talk about the political mascots (Democrats and
do the bidding of the corporate power and that surprising
(for those least affected) number of Black Americans in
the last 30 years filling up the prisons as fast as the politicians and
corporate powers can materialize them. We do not want to talk about
neutralizing process whereby Black children seem to jump from
or high school straight to prison. This movement of the Black
profitable for the corporations as well as for certain workers invested
maintaining “law and order.” Other citizens agree: “criminals are them!”
is the narrative of the neutralizing process! Ideas that differ with
innocence are silenced. Freedom and democracy be damned - and we know
we cannot help ourselves! Ignorance is bliss and only “criminals” and
doers” - the demonic for Rosa Coldfield, want to take our freedom to be
innocent away from us!
- you bet! You live or die! Your choice! Our brand of totalitarianism -
no one wins, except maybe the 1%, temporarily, if we do not enter that
door - and
more than once!
is a battleground we in this nation run from only to invent stories
about freedom and democracy that are not substantiated by reality.
kind of education our children receive - all children - matters. It is
much a matter of “quality” - interpreted under a certain mindset to
example, an intensive study of privileged via race of authors in
scientists to the exclusion of others. Nor do I mean the other extreme
teachers sprinkle in the curriculum cultural “difference” as if, for
history of enslavement and genocide and their legacy is specifically
Indigenous history and worthy of some attention by all other students.
approach is registered by Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow children as
just that -
condescending - and leaves white children to believe in a hierarchy of
and knowledge. (Some white liberals who came of age as civil rights
anti-war activists, feminists, environmentalists etc are as terrified
Blacks who came of age in the “Black Power” movement as the corporate
may still admire and speak well of Malcolm X or Huey Newton, but are
of Blacks who came through the movement and still maintain an affinity
resist the injustice of our corporate State).
more of the same with “more books,” “less testing,” smaller classroom,
etc - is
not the answer, does not make for revolutionary change either, if the
neutralizing process is left in tact and its origins in fear and
not confronted. It just may take a little longer for Black children to
their prison cells, if they are not shot dead by another child who has
enough or a police officer charged with maintaining law and order in
you are a young Latino in a classroom in the U.S. and the lesson you
claims not only that Columbus discovered the Americas, but also that
geographic layout was the same as it was before 1846 - before
the conquest of Mexico, that is, California,
Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It was unoccupied land, of course, free
you have an “esteemed” professor give a lecture on the first
civilization, the Greek civilization, dismissing dynasties of
African civilization, you have a problem. Worse when graduate students
taught not to challenge authority or even to request clarification,
have the practice of indoctrination of ignorance, that is, absolute
- not education.
is much harder and riskier to work to abolish a set of ideas that have
sanctioned by power than it is to win a labor victory. Down
the road, things will change. But do we have time?
“higher education,” everyone wants more of the same - “to get ahead.”
it mean “to get ahead”? Get ahead of what?
neutralization process is being tweaked to include everyone - who wants
William Deresiewicz, in his article, “Faulty Towers: The Crisis in
Education” (The Nation, May 4, 2011),
writes that he fails to understand why “debate right now about primary
secondary education” is not extended to include “a public debate about
education.” His article draws attention to the horrors unfolding at
and universities, surrounding this thing called “education”:
we have in academia…is a microcosm of the American economy as a whole:
self-enriching aristocracy, a swelling and increasingly immiserated
proletariat, and a shrinking middle class. The same devil’s bargain
the system: the middle, or at least the upper middle, the tenured
is allowed to retain its prerogatives - its comfortable compensation
its workplace autonomy and its job security - in return for acquiescing
exploitation of the bottom by the top, and indirectly, the betrayal of
future of the entire enterprise.
has been my observation that the idealization of inequality, that is
class based but most importantly race based, orders labor at four-year
institutions to further serve the corporations: the laborers themselves
the exploitation and work to maintain a purified idea of “democracy” in
everyone accepts the conditions associated with their enslavement. In
sense, labor’s capitulation to the market enterprise is partly to blame
ordering of educational workers and the ordering and ultimate
difference. While those at the bottom worry about survival and remain
those at the top of this order look away - but never down.
to Deresiewicz, he points of the presence of “academic managers” at
university campuses along with storytellers
(those Coldfields get around) who create the “literature of reform.”
they selling? “Online courses, distance learning, do-it-yourself
this is the future we’re offered.”
do these narrators of a “vision of the future,” these managers and
serve if not their corporate bosses? Are they not “managing” the
of the “American Way,”
racking up the profits while institutionalizing an immediate means of
too, asks questions we all should ask when it comes to this future we
offered by the corporate world:
teach a required art history course to twenty students at a time when
march them through a self-guided online textbook followed by a
exam? Why have professors or even graduate students grade papers when
outsource them to BAs around the country, even the world? Why waste
office hours when students can interact with their professors via
in higher education have become “clients.” I heard this termed used in
10 years. Clients! These “clients” come to the college classroom
trained as consumers, and, as Deresiewicz writes, they are running the
“scouring the market like savvy” consumers. The universities response,
course, is to offer courses that would compete for the “newly empowered
attention and money.
Against the tide to privatize education and enslave teachers, this is a victory.
is the “invisible hand,” writes Deresiewicz, raining down its blessings
“education” - throughout the country from K-12 and higher.” Here is
question that draws the link between primary and secondary education
education: “Do we really want our higher education system redesigned by
self-identified needs of high school seniors?”
the corporate-capitalists have done an efficient job of educating our
every walk of life to accepting its idea of life. In other words -
fill cells beneath the panoptic towers and eligible clones from the
and high schools already see bright, as in white, futures at the ivory
tragedy at the center of American culture remains. Neutralization is
normalized. Survival of the fittest! Politicians have come to
but so have parents. As Deresiewicz writes, parents and students been
move toward “the ‘practical,’ narrowly conceived: the instrumental, the
utilitarian, the immediately negotiable.”
there should not be any surprise here. This is what confronts us 24/7.
Corporate media tells us that everyone
wants to land in the 1%. You could deal drugs, dribble a basketball,
bitches and whores, or model the corporate idea of beauty or you can go
college where the mission of education today (read the ads along the
the buses or right there at your computer!) is perceived by students
parents as a means to achieve financial security - not as a means to
thinking and questioning human beings who are capable of creating and
ideas for the benefit of the 99%.
needs alternative thinking when the corporation has the future for
mapped out? Come join us. Everyone else
science, philosophy, history and anthropology, for example, writes
“are not areas of state importance.” Consequently, politicians
Barrack Obama, he continues, stress the need to improve math and
Jonathan Cole’s argument in The
Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable
National Role, Why It Must Be Protected
Deresiewicz writes that the U.S.
is becoming indistinguishable from China, “where
they don’t want people to think about other ways to arrange society or
meanings than the authorized ones.”
scientific education creates technologists. A liberal arts education
citizens: people who can think broadly and critically about themselves
it is no wonder that in the U.S.
humanities departments are shrinking, if they are not just shut down.
writes Deresiewicz, the State University of New York at Albany
“announced plans to close its
departments of French, Italian, Russian, classics and theatre - a
slaughter of the humanities.” Ruthless!
You bet. This kind of “education” is serious business!
so is resistance - hence the ruthlessness!
labor victory in Chicago?
Okay! Celebrate! The politicians and their corporate masters calculate.
Incorporate! Manage this “democracy”!
narrated by the U.S. Empire.
calls for tenured faculty, who “enjoy the strongest speech protections
society,” to stand up.
not hold your breath. You will get reform if they move an inch! This
no vested interest in the 99%. It does not matter who comes into the
or what narrative they are asked to spin - as long as the pay is good
keeps rolling in!
contamination has not been from some imaginary bogey-man figure. In the
citizenry has been steered away from confronting that door before them
they no longer are able to distinguish between the living and the
has been the work of those in power at the top in conjunction with
teachers, children and parents. Everyone. It will take hard work to
ourselves from the Empire’s web of innocence.
teachers’ unions want to be daring (revolutionary) and really challenge
totalitarian future we are being offered, they must educate the
students, parents, and concerned citizenry to reject their
and enslavement to the corporate idea of freedom and democracy!
Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate
American Literature/Cultural Theory. Click here to contact Dr.
 See Juan Gonzales’ Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America.
 For example: James
Garland, Saving Alma Mater (2009), Robert Zemsky,
Making Reform Work, (2009).
Deresiewicz: “When Garland
enumerates the fields a state legislature might want to encourage its
people to enter, he lists ‘engineering, agriculture, nursing, math and
education, or any other area of state importance.’”